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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Fullerton Exiles Lift Northridge

Baseball: Hill, Baron and Estrada help Matadors beat former teammates, 8-6.

March 19, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — From the visitor's dugout, a vantage-point strange and vaguely surreal, Erasmo Ramirez watched the Cal State Northridge team he abandoned defeat the Cal State Fullerton team he has embraced, 8-6, on Wednesday.

But he wasn't taken aback.

"The intensity those guys dished out didn't surprise me," said Ramirez, who along with Benny Flores transferred to Fullerton when Northridge temporarily dropped baseball in June.

"They were hungrier than we were today. It was that simple."

Northridge (16-17) pounded out 13 hits, including three home runs, against four Titan pitchers.

Ramirez and Flores, left-handed pitchers and the aces of the staff, were held out to pitch this weekend against Cal State Long Beach.

They weren't the only players with ties to the opposing team. Certain Matadors took particular pleasure in the outcome.

Second baseman Nakia Hill, who left Fullerton after batting .357 last season because of conflicts with coaches, hit an eighth-inning home run with Northridge holding a 7-6 lead, and made two acrobatic defensive plays.

"I'm a lot happier here and there are no personal grudges, but this victory is a little sweeter," he said.

Right-handed pitcher Tim Baron, told his scholarship would not be renewed after pitching 29 2/3 innings as a Fullerton freshman, is another. Baron allowed one hit before his control escaped him in the fourth and three walks set up a grand slam by Greg Jacobs that tied the score, 6-6.

A third player thinking payback was shortstop Marco Estrada, who couldn't win a starting position at Fullerton in the fall and transferred to Northridge. He had two hits, and his single to open the sixth led to the eventual winning run.

Although his team's eight-game winning streak came to an end, Fullerton Coach George Horton felt an odd satisfaction in the loss.

"That is the purity of the game," he said. "Nakia, Marco and Timmy wanted it more than our guys and were rewarded with success. That's refreshing."

Left-hander Jeff Martin (5-2) shut out Fullerton (18-7) over the last 3 1/3 innings, which served as redemption after he gave up a home run and took a 6-4 loss to Fullerton on March 3.

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